Tag Archive for gym culture

‘I’m a woman who can kick ass!’ Practices, meanings, and corporeality in female gym-goers

by Aexis Sossa Rojas


Vol. 13 2022, pages 1–27
Published February 1, 2022

Abstract

The purpose of this article is to understand how frequent female gym-goers work out in different gyms in Amsterdam, how they understand and live their bodies, and what working on their bodies means to them. Based on a qualitative study, data were collected from twelve months of fieldwork with eight women from different nationalities. My findings contribute to the work of Physical Cultural Studies by arguing how gym-going for these women form a complex and diverse cultural practice through which both personal and bodily experiences, meanings, and subjectivities become dialectically connected to, and negotiated through, broader socio-cultural contingencies, where gender stereotypes are not only reproduced but, at the same time, are also negotiated and subverted. The women in this article help us to understand that they are not necessarily victims of social pressures, nor are they in search of the perfect body since their adherence to training can also re-enact a space of agency and empowerment. Gym-going for them is not necessary liberating nor oppressive. It is related to the social context and to the individual’s awareness of their agency in negotiating their actions and perceptions at the gym.


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About the Author

ALEXIS SOSSA is a fellow researcher at the Centre for Latin American Research and Documentation (CEDLA), hosted by the University of Amsterdam. In 2021 he received his PhD from the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. His PhD dissertation focuses on gym culture and embodiment. Alexis is a sociologist with expertise in qualitative studies. His research interests concern the development of interpretive sociological/anthropological understandings of the body–self–society relationship in different fields, but mainly of sport and physical culture.


 

From exercise to “exertainment”: Body techniques and body philosophies within a differentiated fitness culture

by Jesper Andreasson & Thomas Johansson


Vol. 6 2015, pages 27–45
Published May 13, 2015

Abstract

This study focuses on two highly influential body techniques used in contemporary gym and fitness culture, namely bodybuilding and group fitness activities. The paper presents detailed self-portraits of two highly esteemed and well-known individuals representing each of these spheres of exercise. Both body techniques have their roots in physical culture. However, whereas bodybuilding goes back to the historical roots of European physical culture developed during the 19th century, Les Mills group fitness activities are a more recent phenomenon, with roots in aerobics and in the fitness culture developed during the 1960s. The case stories are read as both portraits of individuals and histories of two different forms of body techniques and philosophies of the body, and the analysis suggests that the narratives are to be understood in relation to historical changes in how society is organised and what this implies in terms of national and global demands for specific bodies.


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About the Authors

JESPER ANDREASSON is Associate Professor of sport science at Linnaeus University and has a PhD in Sociology. He has written mainly in the fields of gender studies and the sociology of sport. Andreasson’s doctoral dissertation, The Gender of Sports from 2007 (Swedish), focuses on how gender, the body and sexuality are constructed within Swedish team sports. His more recent work is found within the field of gym and fitness cultures, gender, bodybuilding and doping. He has a qualitative and ethnographic approach in his research and has published a number of scientific articles within these fields, and recently the book The Global Gym. Gender, Health and Pedagogies (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014, with Thomas Johansson). He is program co-ordinator for a 180 credits candidate program within sport science and teaches at graduate and postgraduate levels, mainly in research methods and social science theory.

THOMAS JOHANSSON is Professor of Education at the Department of Education, Communication and Learning, University of Gothenburg, Sweden. He has written extensively in the field of gender studies, the sociology of the family, and youth research. His recent books include The Transformation of Sexuality (Ashgate 2007) and Young Migrants (Palgrave 2011, with Katrine Fangen and Nils Hammarén). Johansson has published articles on gender, ethnicity, and identity in journals such as Men and MasculinitiesEthnicityActa SociologicaJournal of Family CommunicationYoungJournal of Men’s Studies, and Journal of Youth Studies.

Between Performance and Beauty: Towards a sociological understanding of trajectories to drug use in a gym and bodybuildning context

by Jesper Andreasson


Vol. 4 2013, pages 69–90
Published May 22, 2013

jesper-andreassonAbstract

Emanating from an ethnographic study of Swedish bodybuilders, this article aims to present a sociological understanding of various circumstances influencing the decision to begin taking performance-enhancing drugs. Theoretically, the research builds upon a constructionist approach, in which actors’ identity claims, the way they describe themselves and their group affiliation, are understood both as individual stories of identity construction and as discursive statements. The result shows that the willingness to perform, to focus on the body’s function, is a paradigmatic narrative being expressed throughout. As such, this performance oriented lifestyle can be related to traditional values saluted within organised sports and also understood as a fairly stable part of a hegemonic masculine construction. However, the results also show how the performance logic is entwined with a strong zest for bodily aesthetics. In the article, this cultural ambiguity is used as an analytical window through which one can see how different understandings of gender, health and doping continuously are socially negotiated in relation to contemporary fitness culture and public health organisations in Swedish society. By analysing doping trajectories in this way the article suggests that drug using practises could be understood as an activity performed along a continuum of cultural and societal (over-)conformity, rather than actions representing societal abnormality.


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About the Author

JESPER ANDREASSON is associate professor of sport science at Linnaeus University and has a PhD in Sociology. He has written mainly in the field of gender studies, and the sociology of sport. Andreasson’s doctoral dissertation, The Gender of Sports from 2007 (Swedish), focuses on how gender, the body and sexuality are constructed within Swedish team sports. His more recent work is found within the field of gym/fitness culture, gender, bodybuilding and doping. He has a qualitative and ethnographic approach in his research and is currently working on a book-project focusing gender, health and pedagogies within gym and fitness culture.